If you have access to the internet, there is a good chance you have seen a meme for two about exhaustion, as it relates to motherhood. My personal favorite is the one that chastises the pre-parental self for ever thinking I was tired. This old version of tired is what I feel like for about 43 minutes after drinking a pot of coffee, in other words, it’s kind of like my current most productive self.
The following is a brief personal account. The “you,” is me, but it could quite possibly also be you. I hope it is, so that we both know we exhausted, but not alone.
So, you get pregnant and you are exhausted. Rightfully so, your body is literally making a person. You and the baby both grow, bigger and rounder. You have less space to breath, can no longer reach your feet and are out of energy by the time you manage to get your new, larger, self out of bed. You think, I am exhausted. I am ready to have this baby join the world. I am ready to take my brain and body back, re-energize with the baby on the outside of me.
But, then the baby emerges and it needs you. Any hour, day or night, a different cry and new need. You are busy. You are losing sleep due to feedings and diaper changes. You are losing patience as you watch your spouse sleeping while you trip over his pile of dirty clothes in the pitch black that is 2am. You are eating shredded cheese by handfuls out of the bag because going to the store with a new baby is just too much. You have a hard time remembering the last time you showered but you don’t care because your baby is magic. You embrace the exhaustion, most of the time, because it is the understood price of young motherhood. The tired body that needs REM sleep and soul-food.
The baby grows and it doesn’t get easier, just different. Maybe you have another baby, because we already agreed babies are magic, and another. Your exhaustion is no longer just about the body, now your mind starts to become taxed. You are outnumbered. Growing your family from one to two children should be just like doubling the work. Maybe even easier because you are no longer a novice. Quickly you realize, it is not easier and it is more than double the work. It is like going from riding the relatively mild flume ride to a full-fledged roller coaster. Your brain is usually on over drive, planning and re-planning, this new way of life. A plethora of fears flooding your mind, the comparing of kids that you swore you would never do, potential dangers around each turn, logistics wearing you out. The tired body and worn out mind have you wearing you saw a purple hippopotamus leaning against the half wall in the hallway sporting a glittery rainbow tutu and holding a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. This is an obvious result of a drug called Motherhood.
Now, those babies are school aged. You made it out of the wilderness into the institution of education. You thought you would never see these days. Your oldest child showed you just how long a day could be and your youngest how short the years truly are, nothing is as fleeting as the passing of grade levels. Now the holy trinity of tired has been exemplified. Your body, mind and spirit are connected as one in the form of exhaustion. You never expected to be this worn out, worn down, depleted. And yet, you are.
You still are losing sleep. No longer worried that they will stop breathing in the night, but that they will stop talking to you about their day. No longer tired of repetitive play, wishing they would figure out how to entertain themselves, instead savoring each moment of Lego building or doll hair braiding, knowing they are becoming less frequent. Thinking less about stumbles and bandaging scrapped knees and more about mending broken hearts.
This is soul work and it is draining. The daily task of preparing our children to not just survive in the world but to thrive, is soul sucking. It is the act of sacrificing the very air that sustains us and breathing it into these tiny souls. Our job as mothers; to nurture their minds, feed their bodies and care of their souls, leaves us remembering that beginning state of fatigue, when our bodies were literally creating them. This perpetual state of exhaustion is where we settle in, because they will constantly be growing, creating and becoming themselves.
I never expected to be this exhausted, but I will continue to show up, despite feeling weak and depleted, because the simple act of your unwavering love is sustaining them.
Keep going, Mama. You are doing hard things for the people who need you. At the end of the day, your love is all they need. And maybe squeeze in a nap.
Love and Light,